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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Could Baylor average 4 points/possession?

As of right now, Baylor is averaging 4.23 points/possession and Florida State 4.20, so I could have written about Florida State. But while Florida State has been good, Baylor has been better. Baylor leads the nation in EP3+, yards/possession, EPA/pass and EPA/rush, yards/pass and explosive plays/pass. Bryce Petty leads the world in EPA+ and EPA+/pass, and he is 8th among QBs in EPA+/rush. Seastrunk is 2nd in EPA+ among running backs and Linwood is 7th. So far this season, Baylor has been the best offense in the country and it isn't close. [And if anyone thinks I'm biased, I'll have you know that I can't read the above paragraph without wanting to vomit.]

But 4 points per possession is no easy task. Louisiana Tech led everyone last season with about 3.5. Remember when Sam Bradford was kicking butt at Oklahoma (before BYU broke him)? The 2008 team managed 3.66. The Oregon team that lost to Cam Newton? They averaged only 3.15. Andrew Luck and his Cardinal were the standard bearers that year, and they averaged only 3.50.

So why could Baylor do it? First, they are doing it. Not only do they have a track record of offensive proficiency, but they only need to average about 3.9 points/possession the rest of the way. Second, this offense is really, really good. The Manziels were historically good last year. They finished with an EP3+ of 2.15. Baylor so far this season (and, mind you, it is early) is a full point better. 

Third, perhaps the biggest challenge to reaching 4 is you have to keep scoring from beginning to end. Unlike the advanced metrics on this site, points/possession doesn't weight high-leverage possessions or drop junk time. The really good offenses take the foot off the pedal when they're up 35 points in the third quarter. This is one reason Alabama tends to score well in points/possession - they play slowly enough that it takes them longer than Oregon to get the huge lead. 

Their are three possible solutions: 
1) Play really bad defense (call this the A&M 2013 approach). Games stay close and you have to keep scoring. The problem with this approach is that most good offenses are like the "40 minutes of hell" Arkansas teams. The defense feeds into the offense. Regardless, Baylor has been playing good defense so far this season. 

2) Have a soulless **** for a coach. I have nothing against Art Briles personally, but he doesn't seem like the type of man to worry too much about appearances. But more relevant is . . . 

3) Score really, really fast. Manziel and the Aggies perfected this technique at the end of 2012. You can always go full speed in the first half, so score 42-56 points on 6-8 possessions, and then slow things down (but don't stop) in the second half.  Baylor is averaging about 50 points in the first half.

Baylor is projected to more than 4 points/possession in every game this year but TCU. They are projected to more than 4.8 points per possession against Iowa State, Kansas and Texas. But staying above 4 is like hitting .400 in baseball with the expectation that you give away some at bats when your team is up big. This team might be the best equipped of any in history to do it, but it's still a long shot.

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